Prestige real estate agent Rob Curtain (pictured, right) has snapped up the master franchise of the Sotheby’s International Realty business in Victoria.
The deal with Geoffrey Smith and Gary Singer, the latter a former Victorian lord mayor who has operated Sotheby’s Australian art house since 2009, is speculated to be worth about $1 million.
It will result in Mr Curtain seizing the full stake of his Sorrento-based Peninsula Sotheby’s franchise – one of the Mornington Peninsula’s most successful agencies.
More importantly, it gives the high-profile broker – who is connected to the city’s prestige set via his existing agency – full control to expand the Sotheby’s International Realty empire in Melbourne, something which is expected to occur from 2020.
State growth is also on Sotheby’s radar, starting with a second Mornington Peninsula office, in Mt Eliza, and an agency across the bay, on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Mr Singer and Mr Smith meanwhile appear to be in a holding pattern with the Sotheby’s art auction house brand, a ten-year licence agreement set to be coming to a close soon.
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Since negotiating the deal with Mr Singer and Mr Smith, Mr Curtain has closed Sotheby’s Toorak, two of the senior agents which were based there now expected to retire.
Mr Curtain does not intend on relocating his family from the Mornington Peninsula, or quitting the Sotheby’s Peninsula franchise he heads.
Therefore, Sotheby’s International Realty in Melbourne will grow, initially, following the selection of key personnel to manage other offices.
“Some Melbourne real estate agents will be considering a serious business proposition this summer,” Mr Curtain said.
“There will be no non-contributing directors,” the agent added.
“I will be involved as the custodian of the Sotheby’s International Realty realty brand in Victoria but it will be local experts at the helm”.
Logical suburb office locations include Toorak, South Yarra, Malvern, Brighton, Balwyn, Hawthorn, Kew and Armadale.
Semi-regional offices, like the ones Jellis Craig operate at Mt Macedon and Yarra Valley – could also be possibilities.
Sotheby’s International Realty operates under franchise agreement in all states (Michael Pallier in NSW, Paul Arthur, in Queensland, and Scott Bowie, for South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory).
The brand is owned by New York’s Realogy Holdings, which in Australia controls the Century 21 agency network.
Mr Curtain said the timing of his acquisition couldn’t be better for various reasons including that “consolidation in the [agency] industry is almost certain over the next two years”.
Having sold three properties worth a total of more than $10 million in the 24 hours since taking the reins of the Sotheby’s Melbourne business – the timing, with the backdrop of a demand upturn, should also help attract talent which is wanting to take the next step with their own agency.
Sotheby’s Melbourne real estate arm, to date, could be considered underwhelming
Sotheby’s International Realty is one of the world’s most recognised prestige real estate agency names.
Over the last few years it, and rival Christie’s, have been leveraging their global auction brand with office set-ups in Australia’s major capitals.
The Sotheby’s International Realty Network is said to have about 19,000 sales staff working in 990 offices across 72 countries and territories.
The company’s website – where users can explore global estates worth nine-figure sums – is itself, a rarity amongst property portals.
Sotheby’s, it could be argued, hasn’t been gaining traction in Melbourne in recent years (whereas in Sydney – Ken Jacob’s Christie’s, and Sotheby’s, are the two major prestige players).
This is despite several retiring brokers selling interests in some of the city’s better-known agencies to less experienced and connected successors.